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The Road Home Review

How did your parents meet? Frankly, I don't even know how mine met, but I'm sure it wasn't as enthralling as in The Road Home, wherein a young chinese boy relates the tale -- in flashback -- of how his parents hooked up, inspired by his father's death and his mother's grief. Long on scenery but short on substance (with long shots and discussions of fabricmaking, walking along paths, and eating), the movie is typical of recent Chinese period pieces, most likely to appeal only to those with a lot of (decidedly non-Western) patience. Still, it's filled with enough emotion, beautiful scenery, and genuine heart to make it worth your while. (Features Crouching Tiger's Zhang Ziyi in a leading role.)

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Happy Times Review

Very Good
I could see someone doing an American remake of Happy Times, a Chinese film about an older man who's trying to woo a widow into his arms, and ends up having to care for her blind stepdaughter. He goes to outrageous lengths to deceiver her into thinking she's been given a job as a masseuse, while trying to hide the fact that he's unemployed from the widow. (To give you a taste of this film's sense of humor: He ends up opening a "mobile hotel" on a renovated bus and renting it out to couples by the hour.) Jack Nicholson and Scarlet Johansson: What do you say? Wryly funny and often sweet, though the simple premise is often over-explained.

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Not One Less Review

In a small, poverty-stricken Chinese village in the high plains, a substitute teacher (thirteen year old Wei Minzhi) is placed in charge of a class of younger, unruly peasant children for one month. She's in over her head, since she only knows how to sing half of a song and copy lessons left by old Teacher Gao, who instructed her on how to conserve chalk by writing big enough for the children to see, but not too big as to waste it. Considering the state of the crumbling stone hut which functions as a schoolhouse and the lack of books and reading materials, chalk is a precious commodity to be prized and respected.

More importantly, Gao implores her to keep watch over the children and not let them run away from school to go work in the nearby city. He wants every student to still be there when he returns. "Not one less," he instructs, quietly, and agrees to pay her a little extra out of his own pocket if need be. Most deals among adults and children are negotiated in such a way, and even the classroom children understand and value the power of currency. Such is the life of rags and poverty.

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